August started off with a day of filming for the Orkney International Science Festival. Most of Orkney’s festivals have been cancelled this year due to Covid-19, however it was a huge relief to find out earlier in the year that the Science Festival was going ahead, albeit online. I’ve never been filmed before so it was nerve wracking but also a good experience for me. The walks are part of Foraging Fortnight and feature 2 walks that myself, and Anna Canning did together last year. Foraging the Old Road will be shown on Sunday 30th August and Foraging by the Flow on Saturday 12th September.

I had a fabulous walk with a family on one of my new Hidden Gem walks up Orphir’s Ward Hill, and despite sitting at the top of Ward Hill in a squall, we all had a fabulous day!

View of Hoy hills from Orphir
View of Hoy from Scorradale

I have been busy doing lots of admin this month, the less exciting side of running your own business but I still enjoy it. This month I attended a Business Gateway webinar on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). It probably doesn’t sound very interesting, but I really enjoy having little projects like this to focus on. I do have to say though, that it still takes me a minute to think about SEO and what it means for the business, as in the past it, for me it has stood for Short Eared Owl!

This month, I have also been busy on the committee of the Orkney Field Club. This year, we decided to try selling our annual bulletin The Orkney Naturalist online as we are unable to hold any indoor events where we would normally offer it for sale. I volunteered to look into the different options, and after agreement, I set up an online payment link for it. Click here for more information.

Walks

I recently did a recce for a Bespoke walk booking I have for the end of August, along the coastline from Burwick, South Ronaldsay. This is a really lovely bit of coastline, and one that I normally only walk in the autumn when the Grey seals are pupping. There are some interesting rock formations, lovely views over the Pentland Firth, and lots of lovely flowers and wildlife.

Cliffs and coastline
Burwick coastline

I met up with a friend on a sunny, calm Saturday for a walk at Mull Head. This is one of the standard walks on my website, and a beautiful area to walk. When I’d been there in July with clients, I was amazed by how many Grass of Parnassus there were and it has to be one of my favourite wildflowers.

Grass of Parnassus flower
Grass of Parnassus

Another fabulous walk this month, was one of my Hidden Gem and local patch walks, from Houton to Swanbister Bay. As restrictions have been lifted a bit now, there is access through the farm so it can be done as a circular walk. This area is fabulous for all wildlife, as well as seeing Porpoises in Scapa Flow, we saw 47 species of birds and 6 species of butterflies!

Swanbister bay at low tide
Swanbister Bay

Wildlife

Although August can be a quiet time for birds, as most of our breeding birds have left or are leaving, there is still plenty other wildlife to be seen. It has been a good month for seeing butterflies – Common Blues, Meadow Browns and Small Tortoiseshells being the most common, but I’ve also had sightings of Green-Veined Whites, Large Whites and Red Admirals. I’ve seen lots of day flying moths, some of which I’ve been able to identify – Yellow Shell Moths and Antler Moths. There are still so many things to learn about our wildlife, but that’s what I love about going out is seeing and learning new things.

Antler Moth
Antler Moth

Our wildflowers are still looking good with the heather giving a good show this year, along with the colourful Sow Thistles and Devil’s Bit Scabious. I also love the different colours of mosses that you get up in the hills at this time of year.

Different colours of mosses
Mosses

On a recent walk up the peat tracks at Scorradale, I saw 2 young Cuckoos perched on the fence. They were a fair distance away so I couldn’t get a photo but I enjoyed watching them for a while, flying down to the ground to feed then back up to the fence line again. They will be feeding up ready to start their migration to Africa soon. You can find out more about Cuckoo migration through BTO.

I have also been lucky to see some dragonflies on walks this month. Up Scorradale, I saw 2 Common Hawkers but I heard the sound of the wings a few times although I couldn’t always see them. They are always a pleasure to watch. I enjoyed a walk up to Russadale which is good for seeing both dragonflies and damselflies, although earlier visits this summer had revealed very dry pools which wasn’t a good sign. However, there has been much rain since then and I was pleased to see the water levels well topped up. When I arrived there was a male Common Hawker zipping around the quarry, I’ve still to get a photo of a Common Hawker – they are always moving too fast! Despite the breezy conditions, I also saw 2 Blue Tailed Damselfies and a Black Darter, as well as a few butterflies.

Black Darter Dragonfly
Black Darter